Archive for September, 2011

Tim Yelvington on Entrance to a colonial pageant…

by on Sep.20, 2011

Tim Yelvington has written a really great review of my book Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate. Here’s an excerpt:

In her book Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest, feminist scholar Anne McClintock examines colonial explorers’ use of fetish objects — spears, rifles, helmets, leather — to assert their domination over the unfamiliar landscape they fear will engulf them. In entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate, it’s too late, we are already engulged. Johannes presents many of the familiar symbols and images of colonialism and nation-building — there are horses, a colonel, “innocent” children — but presents them corrupted, perverse, refusing to function in service to any sort of narratively or ideologically coherent agenda. In Johannes’s sentences, all language, like all nations, is always already forged, contaminated.

Also, I think this is a great compliment:
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Plagues and Carnivals in Delany's “The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals”

by on Sep.20, 2011

As part of a virtual reading group, over the past few months I’ve been working my way through Samuel R. Delany’s Tales of Nevèrÿon series (1979-1987); we’re in the middle of discussing Flight from Nevèrÿon, the third of four books in the series.

Flight from Nevèrÿon includes in it “The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals,” an experimental novel of crisis responding to the AIDS situation in early 1980s NYC. It’s been interesting reading it in the context of recent posts by Joyelle and Johannes on plagues, plague states, and the notion of infectious poetics.

“The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals” is preceded by two other tales in this book, all of which dialectically relate. The other Nevèrÿon books are also a series of linked tales, each describing layers of the fantasy world of Nevèrÿon as it “transition[s] from a barter to a money economy” (Tales 12). Over here we have Gorgik the Liberator freeing slaves and erotically resignifying the iron slave collar he himself once wore; over there we have Pryn, a young barbarian woman who brazenly flies a dragon before embarking on a journey of self-education that will lead her to Gorgik, to the mummers, to a scheming wizard, and more; roving all around is Raven, a rascally, wonderfully überfeminist warrior woman brandishing a double-bladed sword, who pops up here and there leaving shadows for Pryn to conjecture about; among many other characters.
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Ginema Growls

by on Sep.20, 2011

A couple of days ago, Joyelle McSweeney & Johannes Göransson started blogging about their experiences in the Tokyo Poetry Festival. They were particularly struck by the haiku performance artist Ginema ギネマ, who takes the traditional form of haiku and explodes it, performing in strange, new, often funny, often terrifying ways—turning it into dramatic performance art that screams out from the stage with a ragged voice.

There is a modern tradition of this kind of performance in Japan, although not in the haiku world, which tends to be dominated by people documenting small, quiet passings rather than powerful, dramatic sentiments. Many of Ginema’s poems are in modern, colloquial Japanese—not the stilted, restrained classical Japanese that one usually finds in haiku.

The kind of “modern tradition” I am thinking of has to do with the theater of experimental playwrights who started writing about the lowest classes, outcastes, and social misfits since the 1960s. There are several figures who were important in this movement, including Shūji Terayama 寺山修司, who is just beginning to be studied in the West, but the one that seems closest to Ginema’s sensibilities is Jūrō Kara 唐十郎, a writer whose characters scream from the stage in overly dramatic, exaggerated ways that can swing from the absurdist to the touchingly poignant within a few short moments. Kara’s plays are mangaesque performances, full of exaggerated voices, absurdity, and vibrant explorations of sexuality and gender that would humble even the mightiest of queer theorists.
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Juan Carlos Flores and Georges Perec in the Ruins of the Imagination

by on Sep.17, 2011

I.  “We live in space, in these spaces, these towns, this countryside, these corridors, these parks. That seems obvious to us. Perhaps indeed it should be obvious. But it isn’t obvious, not just as a matter of course. It’s real, obviously, and as a consequence most likely rational. We can touch. We can even allow ourselves to dream.”

These lines are from the foreword to Georges Perec’s great essay (though that’s not the right word for it) “Species of Space,” which is divided into: The Page, The Bed, The Bedroom, The Apartment, The Apartment Building, The Street, The Neighborhood, The Town, The Country, Countries, Europe, Old Continent, New Continent, The World, Space.” From small to the impossibly large Perec sets out to document spaces “of every kind and every size, diversified.” The spaces then get subdivided – The Apartment, for example, into “Walls” and “Staircases” and “Doors”.

Before we had a name for documentary poetics, Perec had a practice for it, and if there’s an argument in “Species of Space”, it’s that we are formed by spaces we don’t even recognize and which we mostly don’t pay attention to. This is about architecture and urban planning and global politics and local politics and communities and memory and mis-memories and decay and abandonment and utilization and birth and death and shoes.
(continue reading…)

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Report from Tokyo #1: Ginema, Haiku Superstar

by on Sep.16, 2011

Tokyo enjoys a high degree of awesomeness, but registering at the apex of the ferociousness scale is Ginema, a haiku artist who brings haiku performance into a whole new plastic exploding inevitable Shinto realm.

Please enjoy these poems from the haiku sequence ‘The Night-Crying Stone’ (translated by Eric Selland) and portraits of her performance at the Tokyo Poetry Festival/World Haiku festival last week. All photos by the superstar poet Takako Arai.

To all those suffering from stomach disorders-- go to the river! Eat rocks!


The huge man, dead as a doornail-- can't brush off the mosquitoes now


I thought my penis was a cartwheel


Infanticide caresses the wildflowers


I have a shell I was born with-- oh God, do you believe me?

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Radiantly Ferocious: On Alice Notley's Culture of One

by on Sep.15, 2011

a sound suit by the artist Nick Cave

It’s good—it’s necessary— for the poet to be ferocious. Alice Notley’s new book, Culture of One, drives this point home.  Paradoxically enough, this ferociousness is embodied through a renovating force or figure called Mercy, a force I think could also be identified with Death or Art. The ferocious posession by Mercy destroys suffering but also forces the poet to be constatnly split open and innundated with new ultimates: “Every moment must destroy suffering anew; a cloud enters you, to begin in.”  With a kind of Hindu logic, then, Mercy arrives as destruction, and is many-tentacled, many-armed.

The exemplary poet-figure in Culture of One  is Marie, a possession-less desert-dwelling woman who is constantly building and rebuilding her ‘culture of one’ even as the atomistic world strives to destroy it via mean girls who burn down her shack and feed her dog ground glass: “I invented the arts to stay alive,” she says, or Mercy says, through or to her. The book self-identifies as a novel in verse but could also be described as a kind of headless allegory, with Marie, the liar Leroy, the doomed pop star Eve Love, and a troupe of ‘mean girls’ and teen ‘Satanists’ cycling through pivotal positions as agents or victims of Mercy, fire, violence, Death or Art. A force is always breaking into the bodies, running from body to body, and the ideal position is to be bare to it and to become its bearer.

Given the Blakean intensity of this book, there is a fair admixture of sweet delight/endless night to the writing itself. Devastation and dazzling creation are always(possibly, impossibly) simultaneous, and  Notley’s language is simultaneously bare and adorned, fretting away and back to the zero-point of the allegory, making holes in the allegory and covering them up with spell-like alliteration and wordplay. In “The Codex Eats Me”, (continue reading…)

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Tim Van Dyke reviews Tim Earley

by on Sep.15, 2011

[Tim Van Dyke sent me this review of Tim Earley’s book, The Spooking of Mavens. Enjoy!]


Tim Earley’s The Spooking of Mavens, which you can buy here, is a book that seems like Velimir Khlebnikov and Gertrude Stein partook in a tryst that produced one hell of a fucked up, funny minstrel baby. The language here is a Southern kin to zaum-sense, beyondsense, that language before and behind the mind, coupled with the theoretical and dialect-particular croonings of some Objectivist prophet.
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Plague Stages in the Plague Ground: Matthew Suss's Corrupted War Poem

by on Sep.14, 2011

[I wrote this a while back and forgot to post it:]

I’ve been reading the new issue of a journal called Noö. Lots of great stuff in here, for example Cartoon-poems by Bianca Stone and poems by Graham Foust, Gordon Massman and Matthew Suss.

Matthew Suss:

I don’t give a fuck. I talk to unicorns.
I talk to the dead for a very long time. (continue reading…)

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Thinking, Words, and Filling the Spaces of the Subject’s Dead Cavities

by on Sep.06, 2011

1) I have been thinking, about a lot of things. Thoughts, disembodied words, pale ghosts in chains, tied down, heavy though unlettered, each thought a death, single, unattached yet threaded, woven of many deaths, many names, many thinkers, oppositions: Fromm, Zizek, Riding, Palmer, Shaviro. Marx, Trotsky, Lucaks, Benjamin. Scattered readings, scattered thoughts, the process of being overwhelmed, influence.


The moment:

What to write now? Will I write? What genre will come out of me next? Out of what inner space? Time for a purging? A leftover suicide or an execution displayed in the streets? Castoff grains of (fill in the blanks)? What is needed? Find out what is needed and do the opposite?

The weight of too many thoughts, the task or maybe question of parsing. To parse or not to parse? Some would say to parse is the obvious, only answer. I don’t know. I don’t know how not to parse. I don’t know how I parse when I parse. I just do. I design myself anew every day.


2) In such a state, I revisit old touchstones. From the Foreword of Cathy Park Hong’s Dance dance revolution:

The language [in the Desert], while borrowing the inner structures of English Grammar, also borrows from existing and extinct English dialects. Here, new faces pour in and civilian accents morph so quickly that their accents betray who they talked to that day rather than their cultural roots. Fluency is also a matter of opinion. There is no tuning fork to one’s twang. (Hong, 19)
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Reading Mary Oliver in Haiti: Kyle Minor on Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day"

by on Sep.06, 2011

[The below essay is by Kyle Minor, not Mary Oliver. It is interesting in itself, and represents a really interesting model of the reviewing genre: a kind of twisted, infected medical tubing attaching (and corrupting) two bodily texts, wherein one text (the poem) becomes co-biotic with another (the review). The poems produced here are like bacteria festering in the both bodies, both portals and the tube.– JM]


Some Thoughts on Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day”




Here is a very popular American poem, frequently lauded and anthologized:




The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver


Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?




The poem opens with three rhetorical questions. First: Who made the world? Second: Who made the swan, and the black bear? Third: Who made the grasshopper?

These questions seem to be addressed directly to the reader from the speaker. Or perhaps the questions are questions that the speaker is asking herself. Or maybe the speaker is asking herself and the reader at the same time. (continue reading…)

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Kill the Author: Blaze Vox and "Vanity" Small Press Publishing

by on Sep.05, 2011

As many folks already know, HTML Giant published a post about Geoffrey Gatza’s practice of asking potential authors to be published by his press, BlazeVox, to chip in 250 dollars to help publish the book. I don’t know all the details about the situation, but it seems OK to me to ask for contributions. It seems maybe Geoffrey has handled it not so smoothly, making people feel like they had to give money in order to be published.

More importantly, I have been interested (and sometimes dismayed) at the big discussion this has started all around Facebook and the Internet. But overall, I think the discussion has been very much worthwhile having, and I hope it will develop into a further debate about the situation of small-press publishing in terms of its finances, issues of “legitimacy” and perhaps even the idea of the Author/Poet (as promulgated in MFA programs, in the movies, at prom).

But I’m also busy so I’ll just make a few points:
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The Corrupted Poet: Feng Sun Chen, Stina Kajaso, Uljana Wolf and Aase Berg

by on Sep.05, 2011

I’m going to return to a few texs I’ve been writing about and add a few to the discussion: Feng Sun Chen’s chapbook “Ugly Fish,” Stina Kajaso’s blog “Son of Daddy,” from which she translated a piece for the Swedish issue of Action, Yes, Aase Berg’s “Forsla Fett” and Uljana Wolf’s “False Friends.” In opposition to Tony Hoagland’s rhetoric of authenticity, accessibility, legitimacy and true heirs (ie lineage), I want to use these poets to talk about a poetics of counterfeits and “poisonous” influences. Taking my cue from Michael Leong’s post about Montevidayo/Action on Big Other, I might call these “compromised” texts, or perhaps “corrupted” texts.

In his harangue against Fence and the 2nd Generation NY School poets, Tony Hoagland warns against the dangers of influence: how influence can be “poisoned” and lead to degeneracy, and perhaps most importantly, “neutered” – unmasculine/emasculated – poetry. The way influence is made productive and healthy is of course: patriarchal lineage. Creating a “true line.” Like old inheritance rules!

The main reason I keep thinking about this essay is the way it lays bare a lot of the assumptions of the “accessibility” argument: the incredibly common argument (by Billy Collins, Poetry Magazine types, Hoagland etc) that poetry should be “accessible.” It becomes clear that what this means is not only a type of poetry but a type of “selfhood.” It’s a poetics of an autonomous, stable self and art that tries to maintain this illusion. And it’s an art and a selfhood which I think is profoundly anxious about Art and its powers, it’s actually a type of anti-Art rhetoric.
(continue reading…)

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Fake Film Still and "Aesthetic Columbine": Art Shows In LA, Venice

by on Sep.04, 2011

I incredibly wish I could go to the Asco exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art. It looks fantastic.

Interesting review in the NY Times:

Asco’s method was a kind of bombastic excess and elegant elusiveness that would have made Tristan Tzara proud, not to mention Cantinflas and Liberace. The Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote that the group “brought Zurich Dada of the late-1910s to 1970s Los Angeles.” But it was a distinctly Chicano brand of Dada, by way of David Bowie and Frank Zappa, drag and Pachuco culture, telenovelas and oddball UHF television stations, and New Wave and silent movies.

I also incredibly want to see the Norwegian contribution to the Venice Biennale, by Bjarne Melgaard and his Italian students.

John Kelsey, one of my favorite critics, has an amazing article about it in the latest issue of Art Forum:

DID THE VERSION OF THE “OPEN WORK” we inherited from relational aesthetics ever suspect that it was already infected with a pathological possibility, that the office without walls and the convivial zone of the project could also be spaces of violence and death? If the installation was the aesthetic form best suited to a spreading, cybercapitalist nowhere, it probably shared Empire’s inability to spatialize otherness as anything but an avenging, antiproductive suicide from beyond or to invent intimacies besides the socially scripted, always already mediated encounters of the laptop screen. It seemed there was no escaping the soft, spreadable new space of contemporary art and its hyperproductive demand: Was the artwork too open, or not yet open enough? In any case, every “Utopia Station” eventually begins to dream of its own aesthetic Columbine.

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